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a Handbook for University of Massachusetts 

Chapter 188 Early Childhood AdvMSSP^teQliGepy 



*** COUNCILS *** 

Bureau of Early Childhood Programs 

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James F. Crain, Gloucester, Chairperson 
Joseph E. Killory, Sandwich, Vice Chairperson 

Raquel Bauman, Holden 
John J. Gould, Waltham 
James R. Grande, Hanover 
Sol Kolack, Newton 
Anne S. Larkin, Bedford 
Melissa M. McNally, Cambridge 
Theodora A. Sylvester, Springfield 
Frances M. Turner, South Egremont 
Joan Wallace-Benjamin, Boston 
Mary C. Wright, Falmouth 

Harold Raynolds, Jr., Commissioner of Education, Secretary 

Franklyn G. Jenifer, Chancellor, Board of Regents, Ex Officio 

Bureau of Early Childhood Programs 
Carole Thomson, Director 

Written by: 
Linda Gerstle 
Kalister Green 
Carol MacNeill 
Ada Pollock 

Produced by the Bureau of Operational Support 
Cecilia DiBella, Director 

Susan Gardner, Publications/Communications Coordinator 
Susan M. Stille, Graphic Artist 

The Massachusetts Department of Education insures equal employment/educational 
opportunities/affirmative action regardless of race, color, creed, national origin or sex, in 
compliance with Title VI and Title IX, or handicap, in compliance with section 504. 

Publication #15505—16—650—6/88 Approved by Ric Murphy, State Purchasing Agent. 



Massachusetts Department of Education 

Technical Assistance 2 

Introduction 3 

I. Developing an Early Childhood Advisory Council 

Membership Composition 4 

Membership Roles 5 

Council Size 5 

Membership Selection/Appointment 5 

Membership Orientation 6 

Membership Terms 6 

Operating Bylaws 6 

1 1 . Running an Effective Early Childhood Advisory Council 

Selecting a Chairperson 8 

Meetings 9 

The First Meeting 10 

Agendas 10 

Minutes 10 

Subcommittees 11 

Voting and Conflict of Interest 11 

Signatures on Proposals 11 

External Policies 12 

III. Council Activities 

Community Needs Assessments 14 

Prioritizing Needs 14 

Identification of Resources 15 

Program Evaluation 15 

Ongoing Council Activities 15 


The Department of Education's regional early childhood staff are 
available to provide technical assistance to local Early Childhood 
Advisory Councils. Department staff may attend Council 
meetings, provide information about Board policies, guidelines, 
and standards, provide resources about local, state and national 
trends in early childhood programs, provide technical assistance 
to support Council activities and to support program develop- 
ment. Department early childhood staff members are listed on 
the last page of this handbook. 


As early childhood programs continue to be at the forefront of 
educational reform and the need for affordable high quality 
child care becomes a common concern, communities are 
mobilizing to respond to the needs of young children and their 

In Massachusetts, local Early Childhood Advisory Councils have 
been formed as part of the Public School Improvement Act of 
1985 to respond to these needs. These Advisory Councils serve as 
important vehicles forcommunity involvement in the assessment 
of early childhood needs and resources and in program de- 
velopment and implementation. 

In most school systems, a public school staff person is assigned to 
work with the local Early Childhood Advisory Council. It is 
critical to the success of the Council that the assignment of this 
staff person be ongoing and consistent in order to provide 
continuity to Council activities. 

This handbook is to provide assistance in the development and 
operation of local Early Childhood Advisory Councils. It can 
serve as a catalyst for the creation of Councils or be used as a 
resource to strengthen existing Councils. The handbook is 
designed to be useful to a staff person who is assigned to work 
with a Council and to all members of local Early Childhood 
Advisory Councils. 



Under Chapter 188, local school committees applying for funds 
must appoint an Early Childhood Advisory Council. Since the 
strength of an Advisory Council lies in its membership, 
membership recruitment and selection necessitate careful and 
thoughtful consideration. Membership should reflect the racial, 
ethnic, linguistic,and socioeconomic diversity of thecommunity 
as well as a balanced representation of the public and private 
agencies that serve young children and their families. Re- 
commended membership composition includes (members 
required by Chapter 188 are in italics): 

• Preschool, kindergarten and primary grade teachers 

• Elementary principal 

• Parents of preschool-age children, including parents of young 
children with special needs 

• Member of the local Resource and Referral Agency 

• Representatives from such programs as Head Start, private 
and public day care, private preschools, family day care, 
special education, Early Intervention, and others with ex- 
perience in the care and education of young children 

• Representatives from the local business community 


In order to meet the needs of the community, members should 
be able to form a primary allegiance to the Council in their roles 
as Council members, rather than as representatives of a specific 
program or community group. This will foster a sense of 
common purpose rather than that of a group that is advocating 
for individual programmatic needs. 

Individual members should have the ability to work well with 
others. For example, they should have strong interpersonal 
skills, objectivity, good communication skills, and patience. 


Council size should range from ten to twenty people to ensure 
that internal Council functioning is not too cumbersome. It is 
advisable to start with fewer members and build the Council 
gradually, as the Council's work evolves. 


The process by which members of a Council are selected varies 
from one community to the next. Often a combination of 
approaches is useful. Some school committees hold elections, 
others welcome any and all volunteers as Council members, 
while still others enlist a selection committee to recommend 

An effective approach to assure that a Council includes broadly 
based representation of qualified people is appointmentthrough 
a selection committee. A selection committee may be a small 
representative group of community and school members 
experienced in community affairs and/or early childhood 

The role of a selection committee is first to analyze the 
community todetermine its composition. Consideration should 
be given to characteristics of the community and other criteria 
suggested in the "Membership Composition" section above. 
Once this analysis has been made, a selection committee begins 
identifying possible people to represent each of the community's 
groups or contacts organizations to recommend representatives. 

When trying to interest potential members in joining the Early 
Childhood Advisory Council, the approach should: 

• be personal 

• be both verbal and written 

• clearly explain responsibilities and time commitment 

• identify those qualities of the candidate which are needed by 
the Council 

• allow ample time for the potential member to respond to the 

Other recruitment approaches might include such activities as 
advertising in local newspapers or cable television stations, 
posting notices in public locations, orsendingspecial mailings to 
potential members. Predetermined selection criteria may then 
be used by the selection committee to make final recommen- 
dations for Advisory Council membership appointments to the 
local school committee. 


The Council should plan to provide orientation on an ongoing 
basis to new members. Membership orientation could include 
such elements as review of Council mission statement and 
Bylaws, meetingschedule,and Council member responsibilities. 


A term of two to three years is suggested. Such a length of term 
permits members sufficient time to become knowledgeable of 
Council practices, to increase group cohesiveness and to provide 
continuity in communications. A revolving two to three year 
rotation of a few members each year also allows for the continual 
expression of new ideas and approaches. 



Local Early Childhood Advisory Councils are encouraged to 
develop Bylaws which inform Council members, school comm- 
ittee, and the community about the role, function, and proce- 
dures that govern the activities of the Council (e.g. procedures 
for appointment of chairpeople, membership recruitment 
procedures, decision making procedures, meeting policies, etc.) 

The operating Bylaws should be documented and periodically 
reviewed. Many Councils find Robert's Rulesof Order helpful in 
maintaining parliamentary procedures. Early Childhood Advisory 
Council meetings are public meetings, must be posted publicly 
and are required to follow open meeting laws. 

Mission Statement 

Council Bylaws should include a philosophy or mission statement 
which will help Council members understand their present tasks 
in the context of past achievements and future goals. A mission 
or philosophy statement defines the purpose of the Council, its 
authorization or charge, its position on early childhood programs, 
and its responsibilities. Such a statement provides ongoing 
direction for the Council in the development of a comprehensive 
plan for early childhood services in its community. 

Since the Early Childhood Advisory Council advises the local 
school committee it should be sure that its mission statement is 
in concert with the mission the school committee has in mind. 
Also, Council Bylaws should be acceptable to the local school 
committee and administration. 



Community involvment can be enhanced by electing a chair- 
person who is a community representative or by electing a 
public school employee and a community representative as co- 
chairpeople. This type of leadership can provide Council activities 
with a broad community perspective and a sense of shared 
responsibility. If co-chairpeople are selected, they should be 
certain to clearly delineate responsibilities and roles. 

The Council should elect a chairperson(s) who has leadership 
ability and skills, such as: 

• ability to make everyone in the group feel comfortable and 
equally important 

• ability to motivate members to accomplish goals and objectives 

• flexibility to new ideas and suggestions 

• ability to delegate responsibilities 

• personal and interpersonal communication skills (written and 

• negotiation skills 

• ability to recognize and regard talent and foster new leadership 


Meetings should be scheduled on a regular basis as agreed upon 
by a majority of members. Scheduling meetings at schools, 
public libraries, local preschools, resource and referral agencies, 
or other facilities should be done to accommodate the majority. 

One of the chairperson's most important functions is to run 
effective, focused meetings. Specific suggestions for making 
meetings successful include the following: 

• Prepare ahead of time. This means everything from checking 
on the room, the refreshments and the agenda, to pre- 
thinking the task assignments and anticipating possible 
conflicts between members. 

• Be ready to help the group break the required work into 
manageable tasks. Try to make certain that each member 
understands how his or her task fits into the larger picture. Be 
ready to explain why accomplishing each task will move the 
group toward its goal. 

• Make sure the group establishes a realistic schedule. A 

schedule that does not allow enough time to accomplish the 
group's goals will discourage future activities. On the other 
hand, a successful experience will motivate group members to 
keep on working. 

• Be sensitive to why people are there. It is important to 
recognize that people get involved for different reasons. 
Reasons for participating can vary from a sense of civic 
responsibility to an assignment by a supervisor, to a desire to 
accomplish a specific goal. 

• Realize that individuals play different roles in meetings. Some 
common functions that members may serve at Council 
meetings include presentation of issues, observation, clari- 
fication, identification of pitfalls, and mediation. It is the 
chairperson's job to keep the meeting moving and to recognize 
and call upon members for their strengths. 

• Keep track of the time and keep the meeting focused. Allow 
enough time to introduce the agenda, discuss the issues and 
summarize the results. Try to make sure that individual 
members do not monopolize the meeting or repeat points 
already discussed. One should be careful to keep to the 
agenda and prevent members from straying too far off the 

• Encourage everyone to participate. Try to create an atmo- 
sphere of mutual support and trust by reinforcing good 
suggestionsorasking listeners for theiropinions. In particular, 
work to ensure that representatives from both the public and 
private sectors feel involved and welcome. Try to build on 
individual members' ideas. 

• Try to end the meeting in an organized way that sets the stage 
for the next meeting. Avoid leaving any loose ends. Make sure 
to summarize what happened, identify the next steps, go over 
any task assignments and set a time and place for the next 


At the first meeting, ample time should be provided for all 
membersto begin to explore the overall purposeand roleof the 
Council. If this period is too hurried, there is danger that the 
Council will set unrealistic goals for itself or that individuals may 
feel confused or alienated. Members need time to ask questions, 
express their own ideas about the Council, listen to each other 
and become acquainted. Basic background information related 
to the general purpose of the Council should be available for 
members to take home. 


Agendas should be sent to members in advance. Ordinarily, the 
chairperson(s) prepares the agenda. Members should be asked if 
they have items to include. Agendas should note if a vote is to be 
taken on a specific item. 


Meeting minutes are very useful. Distribution of minutes to key 
school and community representatives helps publicize the Early 
Childhood Advisory Council's work. Moreover, a file of minutes 
forms a history of the group which should be made available to 
new members. Accurate minutes should be available to absentees 
and should be sent to members at the same time as they receive 
the agenda for upcoming meetings. 



Subcommittees should evolve as needed to work on specific 
activities and should report back to the whole Council. Sub- 
committees can be ad hoc in order to complete a short-term 
project or ongoing in order to work on continuing projects. 
Usually they are made up of volunteers and one person is asked 
to chair the subcommittee. 


Advisory Councils often have to make group decisions which 
require a vote. At times, a member may find that voting on a 
particular issue may appear as a conflict of interest. No member 
of an Advisory Council should cast a vote on any matter which 
would provide direct personal financial benefit to that member 
or otherwise give an appearance of a conflict of interest under 
state or local law. If Council members have questions about 
conflict of interest, they should consult the local school system's 
legal counsel or the State Ethics Commission. 

If a final approved grant proposal does provide personal benefit 
to an Advisory Council member then that member should resign 
from the Council. That individual could then participate in 
Council activities as Council Bylaws allow. 

Many Councils have program staff whose salaries are paid with 
grant funds (e.g. early childhood coordinator) who serve as 
resource people to Council activities. Although program staff 
may attend all meetings and participate in Council discussions, 
they should serve as ex officio members who do not vote on 
Council matters. 


An Advisory Council member's signature on a Chapter 188 Early 
Childhood grant proposal represents participation in the process 
of proposal development and general agreement with the intent 
of the proposal. No individual Advisory Council member has 
veto power over the approval of a Chapter 188 Early Childhood 
grant proposal. 

If an individual has concerns about a proposal they should first 
consult with the chairperson of the Council to discuss the 
concerns and to determine if the concerns should be addressed 
by the whole Council at a meeting. If concerns remain, the 


Department of Education's regional early childhood staff are 
available to provide technical assistance. 


External policies are needed on howto disseminate information 
about the Council's work. Publications, media presentations and 
training programs are important in making the public aware of 
Council activities. Collaboration among public schools, local 
early childhood programs, parents, resource and referral 
agenciesand other community groups is critical totheCouncil's 



The Early Childhood Advisory Council's role is to advise and 
serve as a resource to the school system and school committee 
on matters related to the education and care of young children 
and their families. In this capacity, the Council may be involved 
in any combination of the following activities: 

• administering a community-wide assessment of early child- 
hood needs and resources 

• determining priorities and defining objectives to address a 
community's early childhood needs 

• identifying strategies for securing in-kind contributions and 
identifying additional community resources that will help 
support grant activities 

• advocating for programs for young children by communicating 
appropriate information to legislative representatives and the 

• participating in program evaluation and making recommen- 
dations on necessary program changes 

• establishing linkages to facilitate communication with all local 
education and community organizations 

Many Councils have seen dramatic changes take place in their 
school systems due to Council activities. Council members must 
keep in mind, however, that lasting change takes time. What may 
seem like a small curriculum change to an Advisory Council 
member may seem like an enormous change for a classroom 



Early Childhood Advisory Councils periodically conduct a 
community-wide assessment of early childhood needs and 
resources which identifies the diverse needs of young children 
and families in the community and the resources that presently 
exist to meet those needs. 

A needs assessment should address the following areas: 

• Early childhood programs currently available in the community 
for young children and families (e.g. preschool programs, day 
care programs, Head Start, kindergartens — with pertinent 
enrollment/waiting list data, program affordability, and 
potential areas of collaboration such as staff development, 
shared resources, shared space) 

• Existing community services and resources available for young 
children and their families (e.g. mental health centers, public 
health clinics, community centers) 

• Pertinent community demographic data (e.g. number of 
children from birth to 6-years old by age group; bilingual and 
refugee population needs; low-income family needs; 
population changes) 

• School district early childhood data (e.g. preschool and 
school-age staff development needs; curriculum appro- 
priateness and coordination; family involvement; facility, 
equipment, and transportation needs; retention rates; avail- 
able funding resources; class size; adult/child ratio) 


Based on the results of community needs assessments, Advisory 
Councils recommend priorities and define appropriate objectives 
to meet the needs of young children and families. 

Needed services could include but are not limited to: 

• integrated preschool programs for 3 and 4 year old children 
with and without special needs 

• extended day and day care programs 

• services for young children from linguistic minority back- 

• language enrichment programs 

• home based programs 


• referrals to other related services 

• parenting groups and parent resource centers 

• additional staff and equipment to enhance existing programs 

• training for early childhood teachers and parents 


Advisory Councils identify the resources needed to implement 
objectives. Resources may be derived from local, state, federal, 
or private sources, and may be in the form of actual budget 
allocations or in-kind contributions of services or goods. 


Advisory Councils play an important role in the annual evaluation 
of how well a program is meeting its established goals and 
objectives for children, families and staff and in identifying 
program areas needing improvement. The Chapter 188 Early 
Childhood Program Standards Checklist (available at the De- 
partment's regional centers) provides a format for programs to 
use in conducting a program self-assessment. 

After the program evaluation has been conducted and summa- 
rized, recommendations for program change and improvement 
are developed by Advisory Councils in conjunction with program 
staff and administration. 


An Early Childhood Advisory Council should be permanent and 
ongoing, rather than ad hoc or temporary. Councils can provide 
communities with an ongoing communication network, a 
channel for public opinion about early childhood issues, and a 
group to assist with special projects and studies. Active ongoing 
involvement of a local Early Childhood Advisory Council can 
strengthen services for all young children and families in the 









Nancy Coville Julienne Johnson 

Beaman Street 

Route 140 

West Boylston, MA 01583 (617) 835-6266 


Maryann O'Brien Linda Gerstle 

75 Acton Street 

Arlington, MA 02174 (617) 641-4870 



Joy Staples Lee Kosczalka 

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Signia Warner Nancy RUIings 

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North Adams, MA 01247 (413) 664-7101 


David Thomas Carol MacNeill 

P.O. Box 29 

Middleboro, MA 02346 (617) 947-1231 x. 445 


Carole Thomson Elisabeth Schaefer 

Ada Pollock Alice Barton 

Carole Curtin jean Elby 

Ellen Cullen 

Division of School Programs 

1385 Hancock Street 

Quincy, MA 02169 (617) 770-7451